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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : February 2005
psa HIS is my first column for the AJP since becoming PSA national presi- dent and, after three years of the leader- ship and vision of my predecessor Jay Hooper gracing these pages, it’s going to be a hard act to follow. Jay stepped down after the maximum term of three years as PSA national pres- ident and in that time he has led the organisation forward despite many chal- lenges for the profession. In the past three years the PSA has been at the forefront in driving continuing pro- fessional development and has updated the Competency Standards that will become, over time, the basis of a struc- tured process for maintaining the stan- dard of our profession across Australia. With the recent roll-out of the PriMeD online education system, pharmacy pro- fessionals are being well served in the vital area of developing and maintaining their skills. I am delighted with the way PSA members have responded to this service—they’ve signed up in droves and it looks like developing into a huge suc- cess. Also in the past three years, PSA has produced a range of protocols that pro- vide timely support to the profession in meeting emerging challenges—such as the re-scheduling of levonorgestrel for emergency contraception and orlis- tat—despite some very limited lead times. Pseudoephedrine products This brings me to another ongoing chal- lenge for the profession, and Australian society as a whole, that pharmacists must play a role in addressing—the diversion of products containing pseudoephedrine (or other licit pharmaceuticals) to manufac- ture illegal drugs. PSA developed the Code of Practice— Pseudoephedrine in September 2002. At about the same time the National Drugs from the president Pharmaceutical Society of Australia president Brian Grogan Guarding public health via competency standards and codes of practice T and Poisons Scheduling Committee (NDPSC) re-scheduled all single-ingredient pseudoephedrine products to S3. The Code remains as relevant as ever and I would urge all pharmacies to ensure they have a copy. Efforts by criminals to divert pseu- doephedrine products have continued, with combination products increasingly becoming targets for their activities. Police have uncovered many well- organised criminal groups which travel long distances buying small quantities of pseudoephedrine-containing products from many individual pharmacies. The criminals collect intelligence on those pharmacies they visit—such as general layout and the potential for robbery—and train their ‘shoppers’ to present with the right symptoms. Pseudoephedrine is just one example where pharmacists have been given the responsibility to guard the public’s health The Pharmaceutical Society state branches and members have been extremely active in working with police to help to combat the problem, but it’s an issue in which all individual pharmacists need to play their part. Recently government—through the NDPSC—has been examining the sched- uling of all pseudoephedrine-containing combination products, including discus- sion on whether to reschedule them to S3 or S4 and other measures, such as shelv- ing restrictions. If such measures are introduced they will place additional legislated responsi- bility on pharmacists, but even if such changes are not introduced, it’s still an issue that must be properly addressed in every pharmacy. In the UK products are available where the pseudoephedrine component is replaced with phenylephrine and this is an option that is being considered for Aus- tralia. This is a huge logistical task, how- ever, as changes to the ingredients of any products will require them to undergo the full registration process in this country. Gatekeeper role backed by solid protocols It may be that the NDPSC prefers to keep pseudoephedrine relatively readily avail- able to the Australian public, in view of its actual safety profile and potential thera- peutic benefit when used as intended. In this case it will be up to pharmacists to continue to act as gatekeepers with solid protocols to minimise diversion. Contrast this situation with what pre- vails in the United States where pseu- doephedrine-containing products are on open sale. Those who were at the Phar- macy Australia Congress in Adelaide would remember a slide from Jay Hooper’s presentation showing open shelves full of Sudafed and similar prod- ucts. So far, Australia has chosen not to emu- late that situation and pharmacists have been given the role to guard public health by controlling access to medicines. But this role also comes with the responsibil- ity for pharmacists to act in the best inter- ests of the public. Pseudoephedrine is just one example where pharmacists have been given the responsibility to guard the public’s health. There are many more. So far the profession has been regarded as worthy of such trust. It is up to all of us to ensure it remains that way. THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACY VOL.86 FEBRUARY 2005 ? 79 ¦